Proposed $40M Sportsplex Idaho aims to meet Valley demand for athletic space

zkyle@idahostatesman.comAugust 25, 2014 

  • SPORTSPLEX IDAHO

    BOARD MEMBERS

    Carson Sofro, chairman and founder: Founder and global director of HSBCamps, HSB Academy and HSBCares Inc.

    Salle Uberuaga, executive director: Her 25 years in marketing and politics include serving as an assistant to former U.S. Sen. Dirk Kempthorne and as executive director of the Boise City Celebration in 1990. Uberuaga also worked as senior director of ceremonies for Idaho's Special Olympics World games in 2009.

    Cyndee Brock-Larson, CEO of Cyndee Brock Larson Interiors in Eagle.

    Ray Gadd, Executive vice president of Treasure Valley Food Group and former Opera Idaho board member.

    Russell Case, CEO of Case Corporate Counsel, co-founder of New Frontiers Legal and member of the Boise Angel Alliance.

    Jerry Frank, CEO of Petra Construction.

    Troy McClain, CEO of The McClain Cos. and a motivational speaker.

    DONATING PARTNERS

    Tom Scott Toyota

    McAlvain Construction

    Petra Construction

    The McClain Companies

    PC Maintenance

    Case Corporate Counsel

    Flagship Food Group

    Profit Score

    Empower Consulting

    TVA Architects

Carson Sofro, a 30-year-old basketball camp operator, plans to build a $40 million sports complex in Meridian.

Designed by TVA Architects in Portland, the two-story, 185,000-square-foot Sportsplex Idaho would include 12 courts that could be used for basketball, soccer, lacrosse and other sports. The blueprints include space for classrooms, a privately operated sports medicine office and fitness center, as well as other uses. Except for a practice field, all of the Sportsplex would be indoors.

An arena would house a main court and 3,200 seats, space that could be used for minor league sports, concerts, conventions or other large events.

The complex would be operated as a nonprofit. Some space would be privately operated by for-profit businesses and some would be public.

Sofro plans to announce on Sept. 12 that Sportsplex Idaho has purchased at least 11 acres for the building in Meridian. He has not yet disclosed the site.

The Treasure Valley has lacked courts for its growing club basketball community for two decades, Sofro said. He said that five youth sports organizations and one adult group submitted letters of intent declaring they would lease enough time on Sportsplex courts to fill the building for a decade. One youth sports organization with 200 participants told Sofro it could expand to 500 but lacks court space, he said. Sofro wouldn't disclose the groups submitting letters.

"We had to prove we could fill it, and we did very quickly," Sofro said. "There's just such drastic demand."

The court shortage is real, said Scott Curtis, senior vice president of the Treasure Valley YMCA. The Y must stagger its girls and boys youth basketball leagues because there isn't enough space at schools, the Y's three branches and its four-court building in Meridian.

"In after-school hours and weekends, we're completely booked," Curtis said.

Meridian, which has 15 parks with gyms, caps its adult volleyball league at 100 teams and its adult basketball league at 30 teams because of a lack of courts, spokeswoman Maria Cambron said.

Assuming Sofro secures property and commitments from sports organizations, one crucial box still needs to be checked before Sportsplex breaks ground: raising money to build it.

Sofro plans to raise money through several fundraising efforts, but he hopes the bulk of the $40 million will come from private or corporate sponsors buying naming rights. Sportsplex is asking $35 million for exclusive lifetime naming rights for the entire building, $25,000 for nonexclusive rights on the front of the building and $5 million each for the east wing and west wing.

Other naming rights offered include the arena ($10 million), reflection pool at the building entrance, educational wing and sports medicine wing ($1 million each). Smaller naming rights start at $1,000.

Several corporations are competing for naming rights, Sofro said, though he wouldn't say who or which price tiers may be in play, other than to say they're not for the $35 million.

Sofro said Sportsplex has received donations from its partners, though he won't say how much. The partners, in turn, will receive tax deductions for their contributions, he said.

Boise Parks and Recreation Director Doug Holloway said a sports building mixing private and public functions would be a boon for the Valley. But he questioned whether the project would actually be built.

"I don't want to be a skeptic, it's just I have seen these kind of projects before," Holloway said. "But there's no question they'd fill it. It's just a matter of getting it done, and $40 million is a lot of money."

One of the Sportsplex's partners and board members, Troy McClain of Boise's McClain Cos., thinks Sofro will succeed.

McClain was 32 when he appeared on Donald Trump's NBC business reality TV show "The Apprentice" in 2004. He said Sofro reminds him and the other board members of themselves when they were 30 and struggling to get investors to buy into business proposals that ultimately made them successful.

"We're past the dream stage," McClain said. "You have to believe, and I believe."

Sofro was a star 6-foot-8 basketball player at the Community School Sun Valley before playing NCAA Division III ball at the University of Redlands in California. He later played for several minor league basketball teams before founding the for-profit HSBCamps.

Headquartered in Boise, HSBCamps hosts youth basketball camps around the country, enlisting pro players to assist with drills. He said 6,500 players attended camps in the last two years, with the camp touring to 23 cities in 2012 and 15 in 2013. More than 700 attended five camps in the Treasure Valley last year, he said.

Sofro also founded and runs the HSB Academy, which offers local athletes year-round training at several gyms around the Treasure Valley. Enrollment has increased from 400 last summer to 1,100 today. Sofro said HSBCamps would pay the same lease rates as other Sportsplex tenants.

"We sort of hit our cap," Sofro said. "We're running out of gym space like everybody else."

The Sportsplex would be self-sustaining once built, using lease money from the privately operated parts of the building to offset costs of running the gyms and public aspects of the project, Sofro said.

As a nonprofit, Sofro said, the Sportsplex board intends to use any excess funds to subsidize pay-to-play fees for athletes on public school teams and police drug education programs.

Sofro said would-be investors approach him regularly trying to persuade him to make Sportsplex a for-profit venture. He's not looking for a big payday, he said.

"This is not about me. This is not about HSB," Sofro said. "This is about fixing a problem."

Zach Kyle: 377-6464

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